Climb By VSC: Episode 44

Published September 6th, 2023

Molly is the Founder and CEO of ⁠Molly Wood Media⁠, an independent journalism and investing firm focused on climate solutions. She is also an angel investor and scout for the climate investment firm ⁠Amasia⁠, and was previously a managing director at LAUNCH, where she also co-hosted the podcast ⁠This Week in Startups⁠. Molly Wood is a veteran of national media (Marketplace on National Public Radio, the New York Times, and CBS Interactive) and began covering climate tech in 2018. At Marketplace, she created and launched a reporting series and documentary podcast called ⁠How We Survive⁠, looking at the business opportunities and technologies aimed at combating climate change. At Molly Wood Media, Molly is combining both career paths into one company. Her new podcast, ⁠Everybody in the Pool⁠, is accompanied by a newsletter of the same name.

Climate Tech Needs Way More Storytelling Than We Think It Needs

Jay Kapoor: Hey climbers, welcome back to another episode of Climb by VSC. I am so excited about this one because, you know, during the writers strike in Hollywood, there's not a lot of content coming out of Hollywood. But as I can tell you today, there's a ton of content coming out of my guest, Molly Wood. Mollywood is the founder and CEO of Mollywood Media, an independent journalism and investing firm focused on climate solutions. Molly spent many years as a journalist covering the evolution of technology at places like the marketplace on NPR, New York Times, CBS and she started covering climate technology in 2018, which makes you the veteran Molly, I think in this space. She's also spent time as a venture investor, most recently as a managing director at Launch, where she co-hosted This Week in Startups and at Mollywood media. She's combining both her career paths into a new company, and I highly recommend once you finish listening to this episode, go check out Everybody in the Pool, which is a podcast and accompanying newsletter as well. So Molly, there's so much for us to unpack today. I just want to start by saying thank you so much for joining me on Climb.

Molly Wood: I'm delighted. Thanks for having me. I think this is gonna be so fun.

JK: I think so too. I think you know, as we were chatting off mic, like there's so much mission alignment here that this is going to be a really fun, fun episode. So, just so our listeners learn a little bit more about you, you've had a unique trajectory from kind of tech focus or general tech focus journalism, to public radio to VC. Was there kind of a moment where it drove a shift in your interest in telling climate stories and give us that journey a little bit.

MW: I mean, I think I'm like so many people in that awareness of the climate crisis, you know, I mean, I was, I remember when inconvenient truth came out and the conversation about the ozone layer and all of these sort of increasingly urgent conversations about climate. And I had been a very, like you said, a business reporter, a tech reporter specifically, and I just didn't know a way into that story. So it was sort of bugging, if you will, and then sort of a couple of things all happened at once. I read a lot of sci-fi, and I happened to be reading this book by Kim Stanley Robinson called New York 2140, which is about New York City and global finance after two successive 50-foot sea level rises. And there was this mentioned in this book about diamond coating around the bottom of buildings that was keeping water out so that people could still just live in Manhattan and do business. And I had this moment when I was the host of a show called marketplace tech, which was a national public radio show. And I thought, Okay, well wait a second, who's working on that? Like, could somebody be building these types of solutions? And I really got interested in adaptation. I just had, you know, been reading more and more IPCC reports that we're all kind of saying the same thing, which is, some of this is baked in. A lot of this is baked in and we're gonna have to maybe engineer our way out of it. And I just had this moment of realizing that it was my story and that it was profoundly a business story. I credited a lot of bits in that book, which was literally about survival, technology, and global finance. And it just kind of all clicked into place as so many because that's exactly what kind of nerd I am. If sci-fi shows me a way, I'm going through that door.

JK: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, it's so interesting how much I think the climate crisis, especially for the newer generation, right, as I talked to folks in their 20s, or even coming out of college now, it has become personal. There's a really great article Rachel wolf wrote on Wall Street Journal, talking about how you know people are becoming nocturnal in the summers. I think both optimistic that you know, there's adaptation happening and then get also doom and gloom sets in, which is like, where is this action coming from, in your time as a journalist? Did that make you more optimistic?

MW: I mean, I know a lot of people who have been covering climate for a long time and they think it's tough. I mean, it was a really emotionally taxing job. And I think it's partly because of the business of journalism now that I'm a little bit on the other side, that we're kind of addicted to what I call problem porn. And in many ways, I think that I spoke to a group of climate reporters and they specifically said, Well, how can you cover this without advocating and I was like, why wouldn't you be advocating the goal of great journalism ultimately, is outcomes. But the job of journalism day to day many times is to just sort of outline the problem, drop that baby off at the doorstep and hope that somebody picks it up and adopts it and takes care of it and does something later. That is grinding and miserable. I feel very lucky that I was on a show that could really focus on solutions that I could say, in answer to that question. Is anybody building this? Let's go find the people who are, let's go knock on the doors of Apple and Facebook and Microsoft, you know, I went sort of bopping around the valley knocking on the doors of big tech companies and venture capitalists and saying, you promised us Tech was gonna save the world. What are you doing? What are you working on? Honestly, what's amazing is you know, we started talking about this series in probably 2016-2017. Launched in 2018. I can only find about two startups who were really genuinely building you know, one of them is now known as source and it's, it's, you know, those panels that suck water out of there. And it was incredible. Every time I stumbled across somebody who was building one of these solutions, it was just a dopamine hit of hope. It's amazing to me to see how hard it was to find them. Then, and how they're everywhere now and the people really are doing it.

JK: Yeah. And is that someone kind of leading you into becoming an investor then going from, hey, I'm obviously shedding light on this and I'm trying to spur action. But now here's something maybe different that I can do as an investor talk to me about that journey, going from journalism to investing and maybe what some of the pleasant surprises that happened as you as you made that transition.

MW: Really that's exactly what happened. I thought, Okay, people are working on this. How can I have a more direct impact? And I will confess that a part of me was like, I don't have time to change minds, you know? Storytelling is slow or inefficient or journalism organizations are, in some cases, still very resistant to climate coverage, which they consider to be boring content that nobody is going to read. I was just feeling antsy. I was just chomping at the bit like I'm gonna give some people some money so they can get some stuff done. You know, I was lucky enough to know someone who had previously been a journalist who was out of band and you know, we've had a long relationship and got the opportunity to move into a venture which is a hard thing to do. And it was exactly the firehose of hope that I would have wanted it to be. I mean, every conversation that you have with founders and other climate investors, I mean, talk about a collaborative phenomenal community of people rowing in the same direction. What I found is that in some ways, it's different from generalist Venter in some kind of profound and wonderful ways and that it's so collaborative and that it really is mission driven, but ultimately, capitalist endeavor, but I think probably the thing that surprised me the most coming out of journalism, because going from Public Radio, to venture capital is a specifically large culture shift as you might have met, but I'm not gonna lie to you. I love how clean the incentive is. We want to build something great that makes everybody a lot of money, because that's the best chance for impact that we have. I surprised myself with my embrace of capitalism.

JK: No, it's interesting, what triggered for me there is like this word impact, right? I think people in the venture world look at impact investing as a very specific bucket, where LPs are going to allocate capital or you as a founder are going to take impact investing funds onto your cap table. And yet, you know, climate investing is impacted, and we're maybe not in that sort of definition of, we're helping sort of an underprivileged group or an unrecognized group, but it is ultimately at the end of the day making an impact. I think the biggest shift for me as somebody who's now been sort of studying this space, in climate 1.O, versus what we're seeing today is that it's not being talked about as impact it's being talked about as industrial adaptation or, you know, climate community adaptation. Maybe let's click on that one piece about it being vegetables though, like that's a very interesting framing to me. I'm seeing so many publications, have a climate desk, and have folks that want to cover this. So find that storytelling still kind of dry and something that folks need to do or in what ways have you seen that change?

MW: I am starting to see the climate desks, I believe and evangelize that we're living in the climate economy. There is no question that every part of our lives and business is going to change and there's a point at which something becomes a big enough story in day to day life, economic life, and kind of activism and injustice where it's unavoidable and this is this is a story that has all of that you have people being harmed who did not cause the problem in the first place. You have unbelievable systemic financial risk and opportunity. And you have this disaster and there's nothing news loves more than disaster. I'm sorry. Finally I do. I do think all of the elements are unavoidable enough that news organizations are really starting to cover it. I will tell you that the best coverage I see is in the Financial Times, The Economist, the Wall Street Journal, it's solutions oriented, it's practical. It's unemotional, when you put this in the context of a business story, once you reach a broader audience, it's not in the kind of like, climate desk. It's the economy desk where I used to joke actually that at some point being a tech reporter was going to be so silly and redundant because like what you have electricity reporters, it's just life.

JK: You're so spot on. About that. I mean, one of the most profitable or valuable companies out there is a climate company if you consider Tesla and the massive shift to EVs, which I do what I think you do as well. That is a climate technology company. It is so ubiquitous and yet and when we raised our fund that we spoke to LPs, and there was a little bit of convincing that we had to do that, like hey, one of the pillars of this fund is going to be climate adaptation. There are some folks that sort of say like, is that a big enough market? I saw your eyes go wide, my eyes wide as well. We're like Yeah, yeah, it is because it is impacting sort of so much of everything we do all these other things that are happening and you know, web three and decentralization won't won't matter.

MW: This is a total addressable market of the entire world. Yeah, full stop. And it's our job to create these innovations. adopt them. I mean, you know, Tesla is in many ways, setting aside whatever you have to set aside the time to have an objective conversation about Tesla, which is not just an electric car company. It's also a battery maker, a solar panel distribution company, and a charging infrastructure company. It is like duck eggs. You know, a lot of times you hear people and climate talk about well, what are the examples to follow? Pretty much it. These are technologies and innovations that will be adopted at the early adopter end when they're really expensive and will become mass market and then will become available to the entire planet. Not to mention just the legislation, the chips Act, the infrastructure bill and the inflation Reduction Act. Obviously the IRA is the one that gets talked about as the climate bill, all three of them, catalyze probably and this might even be a conservative estimate $3 trillion in government spending toward climate adaptations, innovations research and development and deployment. We know that private money follows public money at something like a three to one ratio. So you're now talking about like $12 trillion annually. If there's not a bigger market on Earth, period, every company is also a climate company.

JK: Yeah, yeah. I really liked that. So doing a little bit deeper into this sort of transition that you've made from journalist to investor I'm so curious. Did it change the way you, you know, interviewed or sort of heard pitches from founders? Maybe you picked up on a little bit more when you were writing about them as journalists versus when you were looking to allocate capital as an investor? What are two or three things that you look for?

MW: It has been such an interesting evolution because I think at first I thought there are some things about this skill set that are pretty one to one, you know, really it's interviewing, it's listening. It's asking questions, it's picking up on dates, being appropriately skeptical, but I had this really kind of interesting dichotomy where I would sometimes talk to founders on This Week in Startups podcast, and then I would talk to them as in an investment meeting, and I would realize all the stuff they didn't tell me when I was acting in a slightly more journalistic capacity. And so I'm sorry to say that one of the things I may realize is that we don't actually know anything, whatever you read in the news is like less than half the story you don't actually know how the company makes money. You don't know how much they make. You don't know what their business model really is. You don't know how many people work there. You don't know what their goals are in terms of where they want to get in when you get the version of that story that is appropriate to you, that journalist and it's like maybe half of the story. Wow, I just found it very interesting. The kind of level of information that is available to you as an investor compared to what is available to you as a journalist and it made me go back and look at the a lot of the reporting I had done and think like, this was really not, I won't say that I gave people inaccurate information, but man when there was a lot of under the surface, that maybe I couldn't, wouldn't now know to ask a little bit more about.

JK: It is interesting. When you see folks who kind of walk that line, there's that TC to VC pipeline job. People say you know, TechCrunch writers that go on and end up working at VC. And then we'll see a few of them come back and I've never actually gone back and said I wonder if they're digging in on certain topics a little bit more. You know, just in terms of like, stories we saw in the recent past we were Theranos where they were media darlings. And then under the hood, there was sort of a very, very different story. The funniest thing happened for me when I started becoming an early investor. The first company that I was on the board of my mentor was telling me he goes, you know, the first board meeting is actually when you find out what you actually bought. Big because even as an investor, you're hearing so much and you think you're getting the full story, and then you get on the board meeting and go. Yep, this thing that I told you about wasn't a big deal. That's existential. It's a huge deal. A transition, it's certainly a transition, is you know, as you are meeting some of these founders and you know, we can talk about it both in the lens of the podcast where you're talking about promising technologies, or even the climate sounders that you're speaking to, are there one or two that really stood out to you, as you know, folks you had to work with and maybe give us a story of how they came to be a part of your portfolio.

MW: I can think of two so one of the categories that I became really kind of obsessed with is measurement. What I love are the sort of unexpected climate solutions because so much of this is behavior change. So much of this is I think of the problem itself as an ecosystem like a planet like you know, it's very tempting, I think, as an investor, or a journalist to get obsessed with charismatic megafauna. You know, I'm just into giraffes and jaguars and like the tallest trees, but none of that can grow without this sort of dirt and bacteria layer. I think what we're seeing now even in climate ventures specifically is a sort of a shaking out of like, Where does our money belong? What is actually a venture scale that is appropriate for this asset class to invest in? Is it a charismatic MegaFon? Is it fusion, you know, or is it bugs and bacteria, which might be like boring carbon accounting software, or this whole category that I sort of broadly call measurement, which is like, what are all the things that we're doing because the key to sustainability is efficiency, and there's so much stuff that we're just doing that is stupid, that if we just put some sensors and software on, we could probably have a major measurable impact, sort of making ourselves aware of the problem like this is unquestionably a huge issue that nobody knew about and now we have the data. So my favorite investment in this category is a company I'm still on the board of. They measure air pollution, and air pollution is sort of simultaneously the symptom of driver of climate change in a lot of ways like and there's a difference between measuring greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, right pollution is the symptom of all of our fossil fuel burning that kills 9 million people a year and for this company, hopefully it's a short hop to measuring greenhouse gas emissions also. But what I love about it as a story and a key technology is that it's a way in for a lot of people to you don't have to be totally sold on the effects of global warming, to understand that pollution is bad, and that it happens because of burning coal or oil, releasing toxic emissions from inefficient landfills, measuring that stuff, in some ways is the key to driving action. So that's one of my darlings in the sort of unexpected way and then the other one that I just want to make this more than anything is the very first founder that I talked to as an investor in the very first investment I made which is eat spring, which is zero waste grocery delivery. It was so educational on so many levels, because it's where I realized that there's a difference between what you want to exist and what you can sometimes do operationally doing a logistics operation. They're sourcing food from Wholesale, repackaging it, delivering it in Tesla's, and there's a better margin than grocery in that business. But man, is that business hard to pull off. And so I learned so much about how hard it is to pull off the business that you want to exist.

JK: You know, in both of those examples, I think what's really interesting and you hinted at, in your, in your previous answer about what makes something venture scale, right. I think that sort of the achilles heel of space is what is an infrastructure project. What is actually investing in a venture timeline, and what is something that, you know, is sort of great consumer scale, a better consumer alternative, but ultimately, not a billion-dollar business and not something that you're gonna get venture funds excited about? What is sort of your way to measure that as you're meeting these founders, and what are maybe some signals for our listeners who are founders, where they can actually project the one that makes sense for the investor they're talking to.

MW: One of the possibly best sort of single phrase lessons I got in this experience was from our president, actually, at lunch, he told me that the company that breaks your heart the most is a really good $40 million dollar business because you like that's an incredible business that may not be a venture skip. What I think founders have to understand is that you may be the great $40 million business and you have to know that and be honest about it and talk to me, the investor about where you fit in my portfolio. You know, we all know that every fund wants 100 to 500x. But to return our funds, we depend on some number of 10 x's. This is a sophisticated thing to ask a founder to understand but to the extent that you would the founder can understand and be honest about where your business is. You help us with portfolio construction, like you helped by saying this is our Tam, I've been really honest about it. I've done a bottom up team. I did not say I appeal to every single climate buyer in the entire world. You know, you've been straightforward about who's really going to buy this. And if you can understand where you fit in the portfolio. That's such a superpower understanding venture as a founder is so powerful because there are times when you are a great investment and you don't understand why this fund didn't take you and it's because they have a competitor. It's because they're full up on 10x Is that you know, every they've got their kind of set of priorities that don't match yours, but I do think there is still an argument for these businesses and that climate funds, I think, have to have an are having interesting conversations about how to apply the king of the power law. It's like, are we more of a moneyball approach where our goal is lots and lots of 10 X's?

JK: I've seen so few moneyball funds work in software. I think a lot of folks are burned from that experience and maybe it's not venture maybe doesn't look like traditional venture capital, maybe it looks like you know, mid cap private equity, and the LPs that they have that actually believe in these kinds of you know, five to 10x returns. Whereas for us who are building on let's say, a portfolio of 30 investments where the bulk of the value is in 10 of them and even within that 10 the power law says there's probably two or three that are driving the returns, you know, those 10x has become challenging.

MW: The other big argument happening in climate tech investing is are we frontier tech, are we hardware, everybody wants to stay away from hardware and invest in the winning business models, like SaaS, you know, in climate what is actually the power law approach for venture is to find Tesla's right or to find the eastspring to do the really, operationally insane kinds of investments because those are the biggest possible returns as opposed to what you're seeing, which is more of a like, well, we'll just do software because it makes a lot of money. Maybe we're wrong.

JK: Well, VCs pattern match, right? So I think that's the other channels like it's heartening for me to hear that you know, of the 16 investments we've made. Six, seven of them have some kind of hardware components. And we're very lucky that we have LPs, on that strategy to support us. And ultimately, we think that that's kind of where the opportunity is over the next 10 years. There's a lot of invested wealth and dealing with the data and that's hard work. We haven't even looked at it, you haven't heard about it. I just don't touch it. I just have had bad experiences with hardware. So you know, I get it from their perspective, right. I don't agree with it, but I get it. But But ultimately, it's really the founder who has to tell that story and say trust me is the founder that I don't actually how to get this to scale, which dovetails into question I have for you Molly, because we've now heard hundreds if not 1000s of pitches, what are two or three things that make a really compelling from a storytelling aspect founder pitch and let's let's keep it early stage because that's most of our listeners.

MW: Probably the biggest thinking that I had to make was trying not to get sold on a story. I love stories. And I was of course the very stereotypical new investor who wanted to invest in it. Like this is amazing. The company that really can talk about their economics, even at that early stage, understands your unit economics. If your accounting strategy is strong, if you are accruing revenue and recognizing revenue in the right way. If you know what your ongoing revenue strategies your buyers are, and you can bring me customers. It turns out that that's the different language from being a journalist that I had to learn as an investor. Like your customer story, why they need to buy this is so powerful. One of the things that we would do at lunch that I found phenomenally valuable is like as part of the diligence process early, even before we got to do diligence, talk to customers. Why do you have to have this company come to me? I can think of a specific company that was in that $40 million bucket speaking and talking to my customer, and the customer was someone who wanted their supplier to say hey, I can't keep contracting. And this is like a midsize business who isn't going to bring in PricewaterhouseCoopers and then you know, showing $50,000 in six months. Out of four we get they mean basically like a pop up strategy and went on LinkedIn, found this company, this brand new startup hired them because they had to and then became an investor. So you're not gonna get a better customer story. Right? Like why necessarily? Somebody's gonna make money.

JK: That has been the nicest change from 2021 to 2023. For me, it dealt with me so quickly. In 2021 and you would say, Oh, this is a great company, your economics makes sense. Let me speak with the boundary, by the time you schedule a call with the customer, the round has already formed. And now you know, we're looking at a company with concrete space. I've spoken to four or five concrete plant owners and GMs and things like that, where I can say okay, what do you need, right? Is this the thing you need today? I know this is the future, but this company may not survive long enough for this service that future needs. It's a very underlooked piece and I tell founders that the easier you can make it for your VCs to connect with customers, the better your diligence process is gonna go. There's no substitute for that. So I'm really happy to hear that that's actually a big part of your process as well. More like what are some mistakes you see on the tech side where our listeners when they're going into the next VC conversation? Our next journalists' conversations should have a voice.

MW: Yeah, this is one of the interesting parts about the journey to becoming a VC was realizing that at the moment that I stepped away from storytelling, oh my god, we need so much storytelling, and we need stories within firms. Founders need storytelling, particularly in the climate space, because a lot of times you're telling multiple stories. There's the story of your business and the founder and your idea, the story of your economics, and then there's the story of a market that may be brand new, or not completely mature yet that you're hoping to grow alongside of and that is one of the kinds of, I think, additional risks. You know, VCs will tell you, you want to find a company that will create a market that didn't exist before. Right? Uber is that company, Airbnb RT is that company? For some reason, that is a harder story to tell when it comes to climate, even though you may be creating markets that don't exist before but or are the seeds of which are being planted right now that are super necessary. So I would urge the VCs listening to this to put yourself in that mindset, right? You're hearing about something that sounds kind of risky because if anybody wants to buy groceries right now, when the truth is way too tough. You have to tell all of those stories. This shouldn't be that hard because knowing your market is your whole job. Market Fit is your entire job. So to the extent that you can tell me I understand this market, I think that's a huge huge part of it. And then I just put them like a page for founding tech companies. And then anything. Here's the storytelling more to put this in. Whoever you're talking to, doesn't know anything about what you're saying. You should start the conversation by saying how much you know about things like, value chains, Turkey poop into biofuels, etc on the other side of the table they don't want to assume. Don't start by asking and then still explain it.

JK: In this sort of similar space as we were diving at first and the concrete and cement, which is really what it felt like I was diving headfirst into a concrete jargon there is so much you know, this average is soft aggregate hard aggregate. And I think as an investor, you have to sort of go in there with childlike wonder and sort of be okay asking them questions. And I think this is the number one thing that the PhD thing is so spot on Molly. I think folks like to think that jargon makes them sound smarter, or industry acronyms make them sound smarter. And the thing that I have seen in my career 9-10 years now as an investor, it's the founders that can sort of break it down into analogies for the layperson to understand that actually know this industry, the best guess is what you've done is you've sort of like, understood where your audience is at. And that's a very hard thing to do. It's a lot of what we do on you know, on the VSC, PR side with the agency and say, what story does your audience need to hear from you right now? But if you as a founder and you know, get passed away there, and just sort of cut the jargon out. analogies, use sort of simple things that help people get your message. The biggest thing is the numbers. And that's the hardest thing to do. But I think so, so few founders get it right.

MW: Everybody in this value chain is afraid of looking stupid. It's just the truth. And it took me 20-plus years as a journalist to get comfortable with being like, look, I'm the idiot in the room. I am the standard for the person who doesn't understand what you're saying. And I just have to keep asking you to explain it over and over. Not everyone is willing to do that and wants to pop up and look smart. Like you know, every afternoon. Investors are going to nod along as if they understand what you're saying and then you're going to leave it you're not going to get their money because they didn't get it you have to believe that they got it and you have to make sure it's gettable and market-based and knowing your economics and bottom up.

JK: So one of the things we love to do on the show is play a little game called hype orhopeful and we'll talk about a trending topic. I'll ask if it's hype or hopeful and if there's more to unpack or unpack it says I love it. I love the game. Let's start with sort of Silicon Valley, right? You're based in the Bay, you've spent a lot of time on tech giants, claiming that their technologies are democratizing information, decreasing congestion. But oftentimes we're seeing the opposite effect. That maybe this commitment isn't quite helping us get there. So let's call it Big PAC or big Silicon Valley's commitment to the climate crisis hype.

MW: With big tech, a lot of the idea that like, if I get a nickel, I'm gonna have a million dollars and if I get a nickel for every time somebody has, like an AI will help with climate change, because there's $0 so far and how no one says right oh, this model will require a candidate to be trained the construction of 10 more vendors, the more we create, the more we're going to want to use, meaning that there's going to be more and more and more energy and that that kind of feels like hype and then you're just sort of promising me that it will totally solve climate change. And I'm like, why is the possibility of climate change, while the hope lies in some of the stuff that the companies have actually done, partly out of self interest? Like if I look back at the old days of you know, even cleantech one point or like Google modeled to industry, that net zero was possible. So the business practices based on the real, the recognition of risks, the need for cheaper energy as a result of having all these data centers, I think there might be more innovation out of necessity than sheer innovation that ends up accidentally being helpful.

JK: I think folks look to tech now for inspiration and a lot in a lot of ways, climate is definitely one of those.

MW: Yeah, Google alphabet have been genuine Net Zero leaders within your industry, talk to anybody in renewable energy and they'll be like, yeah, Pioneer virtual PPA. That makes it possible to pump up a solar plant in New York and get the renewable energy credits from that, like, it's almost like during the pandemic. The reason that the tech companies went home the soonest is because they're the best at exponential thinking. And I do, like, the US is awesome at innovation and this industry is awesome, and innovation, and that changes. That part is very helpful.

JK: Yeah, and we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater, right? We have big expectations. These folks are not meeting all of them. But the things that are done are actually pretty helpful. So yeah, so we'll do another one. Then. We talked about the IRA a little bit. We talked about, you know, government action in space. When it comes to early stage companies. I think quite a few of these early stage pitches that are talking about Ira bipartisan infrastructure act chips act as tailwinds for their companies. Government action as a tailwind for early stage startups. Hype or hopeful?

MW: We have definitely fallen for this trap of like all those solar subsidies went away. However, there were economic realities that were worth a lot of those VCs holding the bag that had nothing to do with subsidies and it was China trade being disrupted by the influx of super cheap solar panels. So I think we have a tendency to blame the reliance on. So I recently talked to somebody who was like one of the earliest investors in Tesla, and she made the point that the adoption curve of technology is right, the early the early adoption stage, and then potentially the valley of death before that value does you have to get across after you've like convinced people to spend cool and be operational. How do you make the leap, at least in that case? It was government funding. And so you say it's a tailwind for them? What they shouldn't be saying is, it will be and I actually think that if you plan for that, if you make it gaps in math adoption.

JK: Yeah, I mean, the IRA, especially if you become a little bit of a political football, but you know, when you look at bipartisan infrastructure act chips act like there are real dollars for companies even this early on to access. And I think what I love to hear in one of these pitches is like the milestone, right, and how you're going to get there to how you're going to unlock it. So if you can lay out that roadmap to me as an investor, that makes me think you're laying out this roadmap for your team. I would love to see those IRA dollars actually get spent on steed stage startups. For right now, it's called project financing and we're not really seeing that in our companies, at least.

MW: If you're in hardware, eventually they get to project finance and they need that money. And that's a huge I mean, that is a big tailwind for that.

JK: So we'll move away from hype or hopeful thank you for pointing that out with us because I want to talk about Everybody in the Pool. Tell us a little bit about where this idea started. And maybe one or two of the more promising stories that you've been able to cover. As you've been writing and talking about everybody in the cool.

MW: Yeah, this is so fun. So this is my new podcast with the company newsletter. I think we're on episode 13. It's just a little infant of a podcast, but it is my attempt to highlight solutions. I have this sort of personal belief that if I've seen somebody do something I know it's doable. Like you know, the one time that I ever went skydiving. I was like, I'm very nervous about this. However, I'm strapped to the back of this nice very efficient German man who does this 15 times a day, you know, clearly totally, totally doable 15 times a day. And so, to me, the goal of this podcast is modeling to show people what's possible. Here are the solutions that exist. I don't want to talk about the problems, even though I am the biggest nirvana. I don't want to read any more about interconnection or decarbonisation strategies or deep industry. There's so that like, I just want to know what to do. And I want to know what other people are doing. This is meant to be a very practical, business oriented show where each week I tried to spotlight a lot of startup entrepreneurs, yes, but sometimes just people in industry. I talked to my real estate agent and interior designer about how the climate crisis is changing what their customers are asking them for. Yeah, I mean, it's really like, every job is a climate job. So that's one of my favorite episodes. This day is having my real estate in my personal real estate agent just be like oh, yeah, it's like the cost is measured and smug. At this point when you're it's aspirational to be like, oh, I want to buy a house that already has panels or battery or you know, you can source on multiple listing services. You can now sort by green features, and shoot for houses. So anyway, I just think that stuff is like I love it. And then like one of the surprising hits. I thought it would be really that practical day to day stuff. You know, I talked to this company called Finch that is a repository for sustainable alternatives to the goods you already buy. Like you just go there and say I want laundry detergent and it's like these ones are the best and people loved it. But you know, they left more is the actual hydrogen airplane startup that has flown a plane with a fuel cell that they've developed that is not only a fuel cell, but like a Nespresso style module, so that regional jets can be easily retrofitted to take these Nespresso pods that are just delivered through existing cargo so that you don't have to build a network of many gas stations all over the world that are not popular.

JK: I'm not surprised. That's the Jetsons, right?

MW: There’s a real plane like it!

JK: I'm gonna make sure we link those episodes in our show notes. Molly, this was so fun. I want to close with a question we closed with all of our guests on when we hinted at any of our conversations given your time. There is so much doom and gloom in the climate reporting world. Where do you draw your hot optimism from and kind of what have you seen over the years that keeps you optimistic about the fight against climate change?

MW: It is 100, at least here, it has been innovators and investors and the economics, like I'm getting a weird amount of hope from people in finance, like deep in finance, who are just saying, this is where the money is going and I have to get on that train. But honestly, what I really draw mail from is the idea of everybody's doing something. It's the very rare person I think at this point, who is completely unaware, or who doesn't have a kid at home saying something. It's like, it's happening. We're moving. And there are great ideas coming out of the woodwork every day. It was thrilling to watch.

JK: I think it's a great note to leave it on. If you are looking for hope and inspiration, as you feel the climate anxiety. Yeah, look around you there is probably somebody in your very immediate vicinity that is working on this problem. And I think that's definitely going to grow up. It's going to continue so Molly Wood thank you so much for joining me on the climb by VSC. This was a fantastic conversation. And I'm so excited about what you do with Mollywood media. I'm looking forward to finding things for us to do together.

MW: This is such a treat. Yeah, let's co invest or something.

Thank you so much for reading our latest update from VSC Ventures Fund I. We're in the early days of our long and healthy partnership with all of you, so please reach out to us with additional questions on anything above. Thank you again for your support for our vision and our fund!

Vijay Chattha & Jay Kapoor

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